Written by an area Landscape Architect and birdwatcher with over 30 years of experience with landscaping in north Texas: what works and what doesn't. Emphasis on attracting birds to north Texas yards, and reducing required yard maintenance. Tips, trivia and proven advice for a natural, low-cost approach for this unique and sensitive part of the country.
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Wednesday, December 25, 2013
What's called a "sparrow" isn't really a true sparrow.
When it comes to birds, I have a pet
peeve. We’ve all seen what’s usually called sparrows in parking lots, city
trees… everywhere. In everyday language, they’re called house sparrows.They are not really native sparrows, however,
in the proper, scientific sense. They’re weaver-finches. ”Passeridae” for the
This is the time of year when the true Sparrows fly
down to north Texas (from Canada) to spend the winter. Since they are all
mainly ground-feeders, and the ground up north is frozen solid and snow-covered, they
like our relative warmth. And the insects/food they have access to.You’re most likely to see them foraging among
“leaf litter” on the ground in large flocks, which often contain other species too.
importantly, the true sparrows aren’t here in the warm months, and they all migrate here for the winter.
The bird that has picked up the name “house
sparrow” is not native to this continent (not found here naturally). They were
imported from Europe in the late 19th century. The intent was to rid
cities of some insects. Instead they reproduced and spread like crazy, mostly
because they have no natural enemy on this continent. (Sort of like the
imported Kudzu vine has taken over many southern landscapes). Not being native,
they are not protected by the U.S.
Migratory Bird Act.
They seem like cute little birds. But their
aggressiveness and domineering habits have made them pests in situations where
they live alongside our native birds – particularly Bluebirds and Purple
Martins. In fact, you see fewer of these native birds around (especially Bluebirds)
because the birds known as house sparrows destroy Bluebird eggs, kill babies,
and take over their nesting sites. (They’re here all year long)
North America’s true Sparrows are here only
in the cooler months, and don’t deserve to be called “just sparrows”.Our Chipping Sparrows, Lincoln Sparrows,
Grasshopper Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows, Harris’ Sparrows, Juncos (a
kind of sparrow) and such are subtly attractive and well-behaved, unlike the
imported usurper of the name.